Category Archives: TEDActive 2014

Bringing It H.O.M.E

By Jason Womack

At the airport in Vancouver, TED was in the air; both on our arrival and on the day of our departure. Landing at the airport, there was a little applause by the few of us who had traveled from just 2 and half hours away (I can only imagine what it was like for our brothers and sisters who traveled more than 10-20 hours to get to Canada). Of course, we were all ready to dive in to the deep end and participate in the TED experience.

And then, just like that, it was over. When Julia Sweeny took the stage, that was the moment the real countdown started; we all know what was coming: The post-TED-ache. After about 96 hours of being, doing, having and talking about “TED,” we started making our way back home. Sure, some of us stayed there in Whistler a few more days, but at some point or another, we’ve all found ourselves out in the “other” world. (I won’t call it the “real” world; personally, I have not experienced a world as real as TED).

Now that you are HOME, there are four things you can do to keep the TED experience alive. It may be months or even years until we see each other again, so in the “in-between” time, here are things I know I can do to stay focused on the amazing-ness that is TED.

H: Hope

Years ago, I met with a successful business man in his high-rise office. He had invited me in, and I had asked for his advice on an idea we were considering for our small, growing company. On his desk was a computer, a mouse, a keyboard, a yellow legal pad, a pen, and a framed quote. The quote said, “Around here, hope is not a strategy. Dream … Plan … Act … Assess.” There, in his office, I took a picture of that, I know it would be important later on.

Leaving TEDActive, I’m filled with hope; and, as such, I’m looking at the world through the lens of what that word means to me. I do believe that because so many of us gathered together, and we’re continuing to keep the conversation going through Google Hangouts, Facebook posts, emails back and forth, Skype conversations and phone calls, something good may happen. In fact, I think many somethings good will happen. And, I’m personally excited to hear about them from you, my new, growing family of friends.

O: Opportunity

In a recent Google Hangout, 10 of us got together for just a half-an-hour to share our stories of how the first wee had gone for us all since returning home from TEDActive. I know I speak for several of us when I say one of the ah-ha moments during that conversation was when we started talking about how “different” the TED Active world is from the world we had returned to. However, when we started looking at it, and talking with some specific examples, we realized (ok, here I’m specifically speaking for myself) that in our every day lives we have the chance to create mini-TED-like conversations in our own communities.

This manifested itself just last weekend for me. I drove to Omaha, NE to hang out for about 36 hours with Brian Smith, TEDxOmaha. At 10am, we sat down at a table of 6 people. At 12pm, another table of about 20. At 2pm, another group of 8. Over dinner at 6:30, there were just three of us chatting. Then, the next day at 12pm noon, 9 of us gathered to dive deep in to a conversation. Each one of those meetings reminded me of what it was like to sit down with some of the world’s most engaged people and point our focus toward something that we all had an opinion about. It was magical.

My takeaway from this year’s experience at TEDActive: Keep the conversations going. Put a meeting on your calendar. Email all your friends. Invite your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat … You get the picture … friends to get together and continue looking for new opportunities.

M: Mentors

Ok, I’m coming from a place of transparency here, but I am 100% positive that we are smarter together. I’ve just sent my third email to a TED friend asking if they’d be willing to meet me by phone or Skype for 5 “mentoring sessions” this year. You see, by taking what I’m thinking about from what happened during TED, combining that with what I’m thinking about for the upcoming year, and asking really, really smart people for some phone-time to talk about it, I can really build the foundation of that learning that I’ve been doing.

Does the word “mentor” freak you out? It doesn’t need to be that scary. A mentor (this is my definition, use it if it works for you) is someone who knows something more about something than I do, and is willing to listen to me and share some ideas of how I could possibly get better over the course of my life. Phew, does that help? I remember when I realized that THAT was what I needed (back, way back, when I was a high school teacher in the 1990’s). I started meeting about every 2 months with someone who was willing to help me out. I realized that 5 meetings over the course of a year was enough to push me forward and through to my next level.

E: Everyday

Don’t wait. To my TED friends, please let me share a short story. The Sunday after TED ended, I got the most difficult text message from my Dad I have yet received. That morning, my younger cousin was in a terrible, horrible car accident. In fact, as of today as I’m writing this, he is still in the Intensive Care Unit Trauma Center in southern California. Since that moment, and since flying to San Diego to see my aunt and uncle, and since trying to keep up with the moment-to-moment changes of his physical and mental conditions, I have been on a roller-coaster of emotions.As fast as I can reflect back on the wonder and beauty of the TED experience, I can “pendulum-swich” to the sadness of wondering if my cousin will ever be ok. Over the past several days, I’ve used the emotion – not just the content – of the TED experience as an anchor holding this tiny ship fast to the large sea. Sure, we get rocked, things show up to test us, to push on us, and to make us wonder if it’s all worth it. I’m here to say that it is worth it. It is.

It is going to be easy to look back on the TED experience fondly, longingly, thinking that the space we were in for those four short days was something magical, something unique, something that was a once-in-a-lifetime. I’m here to ask of you – to beg of you – keep the energy of the experience going. Every day you return HOME, reflect back on the goodness that is TED, and look for ways to spread that out around you in a 10 meter bubble; starting with yourself.

Alpha Ice Break

By Kimberley Chambers

Soon after arriving at Whistler for the conference, with a few hours to spare before meeting up with my Adobe XD colleagues, I was consumed with a single thought: I need to swim in a glacial lake.

Once unpacked and settled in my hotel room, I prepared myself for the mission at hand: I changed into my swimsuit, threw on sweatpants and a jacket, grabbed my GoPro camera, swim cap, goggles and earplugs. A hotel bath towel draped around my shoulders completed the look. Encountering a few odd looks as I sauntered down to the main lobby, littered with skiers returning from the slopes, I inquired with Concierge as to the best way to walk to these lakes.

Skeptical as to my real intent, the Concierge kindly offered to drive me to both locations. A short chauffeured drive later, the Concierge and I determined both lakes were not safe for swimming. Only partially thawed in the middle, there was no way I could enter or exit the water without risking injury. Deeply grateful for him indulging my madness, I thanked him profusely. To which he replied “oh you’re most welcome. Truthfully, I was really worried about you.”

Undeterred and determined to complete my mission, I discovered Alpha Lake during a short conference break later in the week on the recommendation of a local. There was a slim possibility that this lake would be thawed. Again I suited up, walked outside and hailed a taxi. In a strange chance of serendipity, my taxi driver was not only a ski patroller but also a medic. What was the universe telling me exactly?

As we searched for a safe entry point into the mostly frozen lake, I surveyed my surroundings. A short walk along a dock at the direction of a puzzled dog walker revealed a ladder that led into a small patch of thawed ice. I was so nervous and so excited that my hands trembled as I peeled off my clothes and put on my swim cap, goggles and earplugs. Camera in hand, my heart raced. This was my moment of truth.  I set the timer on my watch. Stepping down gingerly on the rungs of the ladder, the bones in my feet ached intensely upon meeting the water. I slipped carefully into the water and was relieved not suffer a heart attack. Once fully submerged, I spent some time (by time, I mean mere minutes) exploring, but soon discovered the ice was too thick to break and I was confined to a 4 foot by 4 foot ice enclosure. A strange but glorious euphoria undulated through my now freezing body. At 5 minutes I had trouble moving my fingers. It was time to get out.

Hardly a swim, the duration of my dip was 5 minutes 39 seconds. The steel ladder next to the dock was no further than 3 feet away from me. And my ski-patrol-medic-taxi-driver-swim-observer was standing watch, with laughter of course.

The wonderful thing about this sport is that it doesn’t need to be a marathon swim to be a memorable experience. For me, it is about trying something you never imagined ever attempting. It is about experiencing the raw unfiltered joy of being some place beyond your comfort zone.

To read more about my aquatic adventures check out or follow me on Twitter @kimberleyswims

There are no strangers: Why TEDActive is about the people

By Ibrahim Mursal Warsame

It’s Thursday evening and I am in line for the gondola lift to the “Top of Whistler Mountain” party …

I am already on the verge of passing out from a combination of low blood sugar, cold weather and fatigue. Standing on the side, waiting for my turn to join a cabin, a woman asks me if am willing to ride with them. I say yes and run inside the gondola to sit down. I surely don’t want to be remembered as the ‘guy who passed out before the party.’

The 25-minute-long ride starts, and the three people with me sense I am not feeling ok. The woman asks me if am sick. When I say yes, they immediately stand up. Clearly alarmed, she takes out two blankets given to the whole group, wraps me in them and starts asking me questions. The two men join her and sit next to me to warm me up.

My biggest fear is about to be realized, ruining someone’s evening …

I try to play it cool and tell them it’s ok and that I am fine. One of them looks me in the eyes and says the following sentence that I will always remember:

“Listen, we’re going to take care of you. Whether you like it or not”

And that’s what they do for the next 20 minutes. They take care of a complete stranger whose name they don’t even know.

We reach the party, and I am still not feeling physically well , although I am on an emotional high from gratitude. I enter the place and what happens next is something I’ll never forget …

Everyone I come across starts to take action to make me feel better, from bringing me food, giving me their jackets, to making sure I am talking and laughing to stay alert. And 30 minutes later I am in the best physical and mental shape possible.

Now the reason I just made you read this long story is to tell you this:

TEDActive is many great things, but the greatest thing about it is simply: the people.

No words can describe the atmosphere created by the world’s brightest souls brought together to listen to it’s brightest minds.

To me, TEDActive is that kind of conference (the only one ?!) where you – on a normal Tuesday, for example – can casually play a game of pool with a NASA manager who offers you help with a cube Satellite project you’re interested in back home.

Then, you meet Stefan Sagmeister who offers you an internship in his firm after a quick chat that starts with: “I have the same shirt you are wearing!”

TEDActive is that kind of conference, where a group of complete strangers gather in a room at 1 AM for a spontaneous TEDxSalon, sharing intimate stories of personal and professional struggle to make the world a better place.

It’s the kind of conference where you constantly wonder late at night, how that great soul that you just shared a heart-to-heart conversation followed by a 10-second hug with, was a complete stranger two hours ago!

It’s the kind of conference where you see human potential in full effect.

Where Arab and Israeli attendees spontaneously take selfies together after a lip-sync battle late at night.

Where conservatives learn how to dance from an openly gay man and share intimate hugs afterwards, agreeing to keep their differences to themselves and focus on mutual respect.

To me, TEDActive is the people. It’s Will, Mark, Michelle, Sabeen, Asghar, Douglas, John Bates, Ally, Ashfin, Sami, Mazin, Mohamed, Javier, Ash, Ibrahim, Kara, Grace, Tim, Ruta, Panagiotis, Sheryl, Amir, A.J.Jacobs … and so many more.

TEDActive is not ‘what’ … it’s ‘who.’